Whisky and Words Number 75: Auchentoshan Three Wood

Auchentoshan Three Wood: bourbon, Oloroso, and PX casks

Auchentoshan, uncommon for being a lowland whisky, is also unique for using triple distillation. (Springbank’s Hazelburn line uses the same technique, but no other Scottish distilleries triple-distill routinely.)  Triple distillation used to be more common, since with a mix of grains, you should get a smoother whisky with a third distillation. Over time, the rationale has become moot, as single-malt Scotch has been codified to use only barley malt for the grain, so the expensive extra step for a third distillation isn’t seen as necessary. Auchentoshan continues with the practice to produce a light whisky with fewer heavier oils and proteins from the mash. Since the mash uses only unpeated barley, we’re anticipating a delicate flavor.

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Holiday buying guide for the Scotch lover, 2020

If you have someone who is a fan of Scotch (and that’s all you know) this is the guide for you.  You want to offer a nice present that is appreciated, and not pushed to the back of the cabinet or mixed with Coke (unless that’s their thing). You want a smile on that day. You have come to the right place.

Buying Scotch can be intimidating because of the multiple styles, regions (which do not always coincide!) and sometimes strong flavor profiles. Scotch drinkers vary from those appreciating a subtle array of delicate aromas and those who like a pugilistic nose like the air in a WW2 battleship’s boiler room.

Note: I am US-based and this guide refers in the main to whiskies you can buy in the US.

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Whisky and Words Number 71: Sub-Jackson Blends: White Horse vs. J&B Rare (and Ballantine’s)

J&B, a practically ubiquitous blend. Note light color.

In previous posts, I compared in the Battle of the Sub-Jacksons* the blends Cutty Sark, Duggan’s Dew, Grant’s Family Reserve and Ballantine’s Finest. That is a very popular post (well, for this modest blog) garnering a few hits per day. But the sub-Jackson (under $20) category has other entrants that bear review. Today we’ll take on White Horse, a Diageo brand, and J & B Rare, another Diageo brand, and throw in Ballantine’s Finest ($19.95 locally) as a benchmark from the first sub-Jackson battle.

First off, why two Diageos? Well, they’re separated by a whopping $2, J&B being the pricier one here in Oregon at $19.95. We’d have three Diageos but Johnnie Walker Red is another $2 and breaks the Jackson barrier. Diageo really have the blended market saturated. And they have a couple 12-year blends too. More on those in a later post.

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Whisky and Words Number 70: Battle of the Speyside Giants: Glenfiddich 12 vs. The Glenlivet 12

Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single-malt whisky” according to Wikipedia. Though not quite as ubiquitous as Jameson’s (a blended), you can find Glenfiddich in about any bar. More remarkable is that Glenfiddich is a marque of William Grant & Sons, a family business, not a multinational, and yet they are number 3 in Scotch whisky production behind Diageo and Pernod Ricard. I have an unscientific survey (visiting bars for 30-odd years) and in my estimation, their closest competitor is The Glenlivet, another Speyside distillery (owned by Pernod Ricard) with a near-equal global reach. I’ve reviewed a number of their whiskies recently but the comparison for this head-to-head will be the Glenlivet 12-year.

To produce their worldwide reach, Glenfiddich employs an astonishing 31 stills to produce 13 M liters of spirit per annum. Their spirit stills are rather small (4550 l.). Compare to Glenmorangie’s 12 stills (6M liters per annum) or the Glenlivet’s 14 stills (10.5 M liters per annum). Even the mighty Macallan, which also uses small stills, has only 24, but produces 16M liters a year (per whisky.com). Continue reading “Whisky and Words Number 70: Battle of the Speyside Giants: Glenfiddich 12 vs. The Glenlivet 12”

Whisky and Words Number 69: Ardbeg Wee Beastie

The Wee Beastie promises monstrous flavor.

Five years is sufficient to age a good bourbon in the American South’s hot, humid summers and mild winters. While Scottish law requires no less than three years maturation, the colder weather of Scotland means that most single malts are aged 10 years before release. There are a few 8-year single malts out there but that is not common.

One wonders why Ardbeg, known for a superb 10-year and a collection of standout NAS whiskies, would release a young whisky like the Beastie, and as a permanent selection at that. Other whiskies are made with spirit as little as 5 years old, but more typically, distillers hide the spirit’s youth behind an NAS label. The Wee Beastie label proudly proclaims 5 years of maturation. I expect economics plays a part. If Ardbeg can figure a way to market their younger spirit in a way that does not sully their reputation, they can increase output and thus market share.

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